Business urges 20-year economy plan

A senior business leader has called on the incoming government to map out a 20-year plan for the nation's economy.

Thai Chamber of Commerce vice-chairman Pornsil Patcharintanakul said the private sector has high expectations for the incoming government to make significant changes to pull the country out of the so-called middle-income trap in which it has been ensnared.

The middle-income trap is an economic situation faced by newly industrialised countries that have attained middle-income status after experiencing rapid growth, but remain unable to break into the ranks of high-income countries.

They are unable to compete with low-income countries on wage costs and at the same time cannot compete with high-income countries in terms of skills, technology and productivity.

Speaking at a forum held by the Economic Reporters Association, Mr Pornsil said it is time for the interim government to come up with a clear vision for Thailand's future over the next 20 years, such as announcing how much the country's annual per capita national income will increase in the coming years.

But the interim government must move ahead first with short-term development plans for the next five years by amending laws and solving economic and social problems to accommodate the plan.

Mr Pornsil also stressed the need for the new government to work with politicians, civil servants, businessmen and non-governmental organisation activists to set direction for development. This will ensure continuity in enacting the development plans set out by the interim government. 

The plans should remain in place even after the interim government leaves office and a new government takes over after an election expected by the end of next year, he said.

Mr Pornsil also said Thailand still has problems relating to trade talks with Asean countries and has to find ways to resolve them before the formation of the Asean Economic Community by the end of next year.

Mr Pornsil added that the new interim government should allow the private sector help develop strategies to prepare for the Asean Community which is based on three pillars of cooperation — political security, economics, and socio-cultural.

He suggested that Thailand, as a primary producer, must overhaul the structure of agricultural production, with a long-term strategy aimed at the next 20 years to solve the sector's problems.

For example, maize is a major ingredient in the production of animal feed. When the AEC is launched, tariffs for exports and imports of maize will be zero and they also will be quota-free, Mr Pornsil said.

The government must find ways to help maize growers cut costs to compete with neighbouring countries, Mr Pornsil said.

He agreed with the National Council for Peace and Order's decision to set up committees to develop four kinds of crops — maize, sugarcane, cassava and oil palm — some of which are potential sources of bio-energy.

National Economic and Social Development Board secretary-general Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said the NCPO meeting on Friday chaired by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha assigned agencies to consider setting up further border checkpoints to promote cross-border trade.

The meeting also considered a proposal by the private sector to upgrade more than 10 temporary border checkpoints to permanent status, Mr Arkhom said. 

He said that from now on cross-border trade is estimated to grow at least 10% annually.

Mr Arkhom added the NCPO meeting also instructed agencies to step up efforts to implement the National Single Window, an electronic system facilitating the import and export procedures of 36 state agencies to prepare for the AEC.

He said the meeting also approved a proposal by the private sector to open bilateral talks with Cambodia to increase a quota on vehicles running between Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chin Minh City.

A Finance Ministry source said the ministry will present a proposal asking the interim prime minister to increase salaries and cost-of-living allowances for civil servants by 7-8%. 

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